Project planning in PRINCE2

project planning disciplines in PRINCE2

If you fail to plan, you plan to fail

Planning is an essential element of any project. As they say, “Proper planning prevents p**s poor performance”. Within PRINCE2, planning is conducted in three elements:

  1. The core principle of managing by stages
  2. The plans theme in PRINCE2
  3. The PRINCE2 processes of initiating a project, starting a project, and managing stage boundaries


1.      Managing by stages

It is unrealistic to prepare a detailed plan at the outset of a project, because as the project progresses its needs may evolve, as will the environment in which the project exists. Therefore, PRINCE2 recommends a high-level plan to determine scope, and then dividing the project into milestone stages. These stages are sequential, and a detailed plan will be made at the end of each stage for the subsequent stage. This is called ‘management by stages’.

2.      Plans theme

The plans theme describes the characteristics of the planning in PRINCE2 projects. The plans made will be:

  • The project plan – the high-level plan that is prepared at the beginning of the project.
  • The stage plans – the detailed plans made at the end of each stage to direct the project in the subsequent stage.
  • The team plans – the plans that are prepared by the project teams in order to manage their specific project deliverables. These are the most detailed of all plans.


Progress against the plans is in constant review, and will be revised if a project exception arises (in which case, an exception plan is made).

Think of project planning as a cone. A programme plan is developed outside of the project itself; this is the broadest of all plans. Next comes the project plan, which outlines the project and provides the foundation for more detailed stage plans. Finally, the team plans are those that drive the execution of the project.

3.      PRINCE2 planning process

For the most part, planning is carried out in the ‘initiating a project’ and ‘managing stage boundaries’ stages:

  • The initiation stage is planned during the process of starting a project
  • The project plan is created during process of starting a project
  • The stage plans are made as part of the managing stage boundaries process


A stage should never be started without there first being a detailed stage plan prepared in advance, and the stage plan must be compatible with the project plan – which may have been revised because of internal or external events. Depending upon project complexity, team plans may be developed to ensure orderly and timely execution of the stage plan. Once again, the team plan will be under constant review and revision.

Planning needs planning!

Project planning must be planned. Each step of planning must be undertaken in a systematic and methodical manner, involving stakeholders as necessary. There are some rules that good project planning must observe:

  • High-level planning covering the scope of the project is always the first stage of project work
  • The planning stages should be planned
  • Detailed plans should only be made upon successful completion of a project stage
  • Work on a project stage should not start unless it has been fully planned
  • All plans should be under constant review and compared to progress made, and revised as necessary


Don’t allow a lack of planning to cause project failure before you even begin: if you fail to plan, you plan to fail. To discover how focused project management using PRINCE2 methodology can help your project be successful, contact Your Project Manager:

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